Last Updated: March 31, 2022

North Face Surge Backpack Review (Your New Carry On)


North Face Surge Backpack

The North Face Surge is comfortable to wear, breathable and has a ton of external pockets. Plus the laptop compartment is TSA friendly and you will save a lot of time when going through TSA checkpoints. View Latest Deal

If you generally travel light then you are better off getting a backpack instead of a suitcase as a carry-on. They are lighter, easier to carry around and much more convenient to use – especially if you tend to carry a lot of electronics with you. And you will have a hard time finding a better travel pack than the Surge from North Face. 

What makes this backpack special is the TSA friendly laptop compartment – a time saving invention that thousands of people adore. And if you want to see what it’s like to just breeze through TSA checkpoints, then this pack is great for you!

I’ve told you one of the amazing features of the Surge, but there are plenty of others. If you want to know all of them you’ve come to the right place!

Scroll down for a detailed review of the North Face Surge travel pack!

ModelProduct Information
THE NEW SURGEDimensions: 20" x 13.25" x 10.5" Weight: 3.3 lbs Volume: 31 liters Laptop Sleeve: 10.25" x 14"25” Fabrics: 500D nylon oxford slub, 420 D nylon, 210D Cordura nylon ripstop
THE OLD SURGEDimensions: 19.75" x 13.75" x 8.5" Weight: 3.4 lbs Volume: 33 liters Laptop Sleeve: 10.5” x 13.25” Fabrics: 500D Cordura nylon matte ripstop, 420D nylon, 1680D Ballistic s nylon

The Old Surge Vs. The New Surge

The Surge backpack was just recently redesigned. North Face didn’t change too much about the pack, and they kept all of its really cool features. They did change the look of the backpack as well as some of the technical features of it. And you can see how the specs of the Surge have changed from the comparison above.

The new Surge is lighter, wider, and has a bigger laptop sleeve – but your 17” laptop still won’t fit inside it. And it is lighter only by an ounce, which isn’t really a big difference – especially since the biggest issue people had with this pack was its weight.

It also has a smaller capacity than the old Surge and I wouldn’t really call that an upgrade. In terms of the pockets and other compartments, everything is still the same. Pretty much the only noticeable change is the position of the front strap.

Luckily, the redesign hasn’t hit Amazon yet and you can still get the good old Surge there and for a bargain. But if you love the new Surge, you are going to have to wait for a little while until it becomes available.

Oh and another thing – the Surge is also available in a woman’s version. That one features different shoulder straps that are designed to fit a woman’s body better than the ones on the regular Surge. If there are any ladies reading this, consider getting that one – their prices are the same, and it will fit you much better.

Features Of The Surge Backpack

The North Face Surge Backpack, TNF Dark Grey Heather/Asphalt Grey, One Size

We already know that North Face knows how to make a good backpack – remember how much we loved the Borealis? The Surge is no surprise; it is a classic travel backpack full of features that will make your life easier. Particularly is you like to travel organized!

So, check out exactly what you will get for your money if you decide to purchase this awesome North Face pack.

Durability And Breathability (Materials)

Surge Backpanel

The main material that the Surge pack is made of is nylon. That’s a good thing – nylon is a very durable material, which is exactly why it is often used in backpacks and softshell luggage. It is water-resistant, very sturdy, and really easy to clean off.

When talking about the breathability of a pack, the back panel is the most important. This particular backpack is equipped with a FlexVent suspension system, which promises to keep you as dry as possible. This technology also includes a fully padded harness, along with a lumbar panel.

And let’s not forget the padded and adjustable shoulder straps – you will easily make them fit your torso perfectly and you will barely even feel them on your shoulders.

And that means that this is going to be one of the comfiest packs you ever wear. And that is probably even more important than breathability – would you rather have sore shoulders or a sweaty back? But hopefully, with the Surge, you won’t have to deal with either.

TSA Friendly Laptop Compartment

Surge TSA

The laptop compartment of this pack is at the very back. It can be fully unzipped to lie flat so that you can just breeze through TSA checkpoints at the airport. And that’s the main selling point of this pack – after all, it is a travel laptop backpack.

Oh, and there is a sleeve in the compartment that your laptop goes in so it won’t fall out when you unzip the compartment. It can comfortably fit 15.6” laptops (and smaller ones), but I’m afraid a 17” one wouldn’t fit into this pack.

The Front Compartment

North Face Surge Front Compartment

And by that I don’t mean the main compartment – we’ll talk about that one a little bit later. I mean the additional compartment, which features a tablet sleeve and an organization panel inside it. Oh and that tablet sleeve is fleece-lined, so you know your iPad will be really cozy inside it.

There is also a smaller zippered pocket inside this compartment, as well as elastic webbing for your cords. In general, this backpack is great for travelers who like to carry a lot of technology on their trips – laptops, DSLRs, Go Pros, and whatnot. You can pack it all inside the Surge, and even find pockets and straps for all the cords, chargers, and SD cards!

The Main Compartment

Surge Main Compartment

You want this to be the star of the backpack. It has to be spacious, keep your stuff secure, and have some really good zippers that won’t get caught on anything. And what do you think, does the Surge check all those boxes?

It surely does. North Face describes the main compartment as ‘huge’ and I’m going to take their word for it. You should be able to comfortably pack for a weekend trip in the Surge, even after you’ve stuffed all your electronics in it. Plus there is a zippered pocket inside this compartment, which is always a bonus.

In terms of the security of your items, there are compression straps that go over the zippers of the main compartment. Basically, people can’t really unzip this pack without you at least hearing that something is going on, so that’s a really good thing.

But the compression straps also have the purpose of, you know, compressing the pack – tightening everything to ensure that it stays in the same place you put it, as well as to make the pack an inch smaller. And that’s going to be pretty helpful if you experience trouble when trying to fit the Surge under your plane seat – but you shouldn’t have such issues, as long as you don’t overpack it.

Other External Pockets

Surge Vertical Pockets

If you were hoping to get at least one little pocket for your wallet, you are in for a pleasant surprise! One thing that was awesome on the old Surge and that they luckily didn’t change was the abundance of external pockets.

First of all, there are two side water bottle pockets. They are made of Teksever fabric, which allows you to conceal the contents of these pockets if you wish to.

Then you get a small, fleece-lined front pocket for your most precious belongings. I’m talking about your phone or sunglasses since those are the things you would want to keep in a comfy fleece-lined pocket.

And then you also get two vertical zippered pockets on the front. I think these are especially convenient for travel because you can put all the smaller items you’ll need before the flight in them – your passport, ticket, a candy bar, etc.

Sternum Strap And Waist Belt

Surge Sternum Strap And Waist Belt

I know you probably don’t like that sternum strap, but you have to admit it has its benefits. Especially because if the pack does accidentally fall off your shoulders, your laptop is going to take the hit. But also because the sternum strap on the Surge doubles as an emergency whistle (just like on the Osprey Nebula). So, if you need to call for help immediately and you’ve done your sternum strap, you can just blow on it.

And the sternum strap will also help distribute the load of the pack across your entire torso, but not as much as the waist belt. When you utilize the waist belt of your pack, some of the weight gets transferred to your waist, which means that there is less load on your shoulders.

But if you don’t do that, then all of the weight will remain on your shoulders and you will have only yourself to blame when you wake up the next day and can’t lift up your arm more than 10 inches.

Other Convenient Features

Can I just say that I have a special place in my heart for multi-functional products? And that includes the Surge, since it is a multi-functional backpack and not just because of the thousand and one pockets it has.

For one thing, that front compartment would be great for school. You could organize your pens, books, and notebooks inside it, and also safely carry your laptop in its own compartment. But it can also work fine as a pack for outdoor adventures.

There is a 360-degree reflective bike-light loop on the pack and it’s a really convenient inclusion. I think you’ll particularly appreciate that feature if you often ride your bike at night.

In addition to that, there are several webbing straps on this pack. There is a big one on the front and two small ones on the shoulder straps. These allow you to attach pretty much anything to them, as long as you use a carabiner.  You could easily attach a sleeping bag or a bike helmet to them and that’s why we love this North Face pack so much!

Should You Buy The North Face Surge Backpack?

The short answer is yes you should. But I prefer to give long answers, so here we go.

The Surge backpack is perfect for people who are looking for a new carry-on and want to try out something other than a suitcase. Backpacks are more convenient than carry-ons for two reasons – one, they are smaller and lighter, so you can technically pack more luggage inside them.

And two, they are much better for organizing your items than a suitcase. That’s mostly because they usually have plenty of different pockets and compartments, which you can access easily before, during, and after the flight, which is not the case with a suitcase. Can you really quickly unzip your 19” softshell in the cab in front of the airport because you need to grab your wallet?

You will love the Surge because it is comfortable to wear, breathable, and has a ton of external pockets. Plus the laptop compartment of this backpack is TSA friendly and you will save a lot of time when going through TSA checkpoints.

And the Surge is not only a good travel backpack. It has plenty of features that make it versatile so that you could use it for school, work, and even outdoor adventures! If you are looking to make a purchase that you will feel happy about for years to come, then definitely buy this pack!

Go check it out on Amazon. As I mentioned, they are still selling the old Surge there and if you want its larger capacity, be sure to grab one before they all sell out.